Fictional Authors are a different species. They use imagination, literary license and often fall outside the realms of the known. Today I have the distinct pleasure of chatting with a speculative author, Craig Boyack. His writing has a distinctive flavor that not only compels a reader but makes them think not with just their minds but every one of their six senses. Ah yes, not an error, my friends. Our extra sense of knowing we are not alone is Craig’s specialty. I invite you to enjoy this discussion and share it with your friends.
I grew up in a tiny town in the Western USA. Things were a bit behind the times, and that comes across in my writing. I’ve remained a Westerner all my life, but now live in Boise, Idaho. Still not a big city by coastal standards, but much larger than where I grew up.
Craig, by your admission, you started writing later in life. What the heck does that mean?
It means I skipped out on the typewriter era. My pitiful typing skills back then would have leveled entire forests just to make enough paper for all my errors. Computers changed the game. As they evolved, it became possible to write on an iPad. Funny fact, I wrote my first two books on an iPad using my thumbs on the internal keyboard. Those are both trunk novels, and will never be shared with anyone. Eventually, I bought a keyboard and still write on the iPad to this day. Amazon also changed the game for me. I can get my stories out there so people can read them.
Craig, what book launched you on your writing journey in beautiful Idaho?
The first thing I published was called Wild Concept. I’m sure it’s embarrassing at this point in my career, but it was different than the trunk novels. It included a good character arc, and a main character everyone could cheer for. Lisa Burton the robot girl is still with me to this day. She appears on my blog occasionally, and is the spokesmodel for my writing career. We have posters made for every book now, and she even goes out on my blog tours.
I leave my early efforts up as artifacts of my writing journey. Still, Wild Concept is a fun bit of Science Fiction, and it explores concepts of prejudice and controlling people.
Your goal with writing appears to cultivate the entertainment of your fans. Was that always your intention?
That’s always been my goal and remains true to this day. The world can be a pretty rough place these days. Even if I touch upon some dire events in my stories, I still want people to have fun. Bad guys get what they have coming to them. Heroes can still prevail. I also believe in making sure there are some light moments in even the darkest tales. My characters can also bring some of that fun to the stories.
What do you think is the most unusual thing you’ve included in your stories. Please note that I have read The Yak Guy Project, and this story is beyond extraordinary and filled with many possible reflection points for the reader.
“Most unusual,” is kind of subjective. Yak Guy could fill the bill for many people. It involved a character much like Lisa the robot girl, in that he had no backstory. I also based the plot around the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The Yak Guy is the fool. He meets other characters and situations along the way. I didn’t exactly point that out, but it made for a fun way of writing a story.
Then again, I also wrote a vampire with a speech impediment, a talking hat, and a cluster of root monsters who get into a lot of mischief while proving themselves kind of helpful. Take your pick.
Where do the subjects for your stories begin?
I get ideas from everywhere. Some come from the nightly news, others from watching people in airports, film, books. Virtually anything could set the Muse off.
I wrote a bit of science fiction once that really had something to say. It’s called Grinders, and started with a few articles about people who modify their bodies using computer chips, injectable dyes, and other things. They’re like basement mad scientists. I couldn’t pass that up as a story idea.
Eventually, mine turned into a cyberpunk world and touched upon pollution, global warming, helicopter parents, and many topics that are pertinent right now. It’s a fun story, and has some great human elements included.
The Hat, for example, has four related stories. Was that your intention when you wrote book one, or did it just occur? If the latter, did the characters drive the subsequent stories?
I have a close inner circle. They twisted my arm to write a series because I’d always written stand alone novels. (The bruise has faded now.) It wasn’t exactly the path to fortune and glory, but it’s a worthy challenge.
In my mind there are two kinds of series, closed and open. I wrote the Lanternfish Trilogy as a closed series. (Final volume coming this year.) This was only intended to be a solo tale, but that’s where my friends stepped in.
The Hat Series is an open series and could go on for as long as I keep having fun ideas. (And I have a lot of them.) It was always supposed to be a series and I kind of like the idea that it will keep going.
I always try to have the characters at the forefront. Once I really know them, they tell me how they’ll react to the situations I put them in.
Note: This series is a dark comedy/paranormal series. If you like a good laugh with a little blood on your hands, this might be the series to dive into.
With The Hat series as an example, these books seem to stand alone yet get richer in reading the group. Is that your intention?
I hope they get richer as they go along. That’s kind of hard to plan, because it implies holding things back in the early volumes. Having them stand alone is a goal and a chore at the same time.
People can pick up any volume of this series and not feel lost. I try to flesh out everything to a degree each time out. Obviously, the introduction event will be even more fleshed out, but if you missed that you shouldn’t feel lost.
I’m finding that harder to handle as the series gains volumes. There are recurring characters and locations at this point. Lizzie, one of the main characters, has been through some things. Those events changed her to a degree, but I have to be careful to limit that. I can’t break her so bad that she can’t do the job in the next volume.
Are you self-published or small press or a mixture?
I am 100% self-published. It makes me a little harder to find but also frees me up to write even more. I tried submitting to traditional agents in my early days, but found the process to be a huge time-suck.
I’m still open to the idea, but my stories are available this way.
Your covers are clean and compelling. Who does the graphics for them?
I’m glad you like them. I’ve had a few different artists, but stick with Sean Harrington all the time now. Sean has a more adult comic called Spying With Lana, and a great idea of what I’m going for. It’s also comedic and we mesh quite well.
Sean does all my covers these days. He also makes all the Lisa Burton pinup posters for me, and creates the silly graphics I include in The Hat Series. He has quite a bit of range, and I love his work.
You have many stories available. Which of these is your favorite and why?
You can’t ask me that! I love them all or I wouldn’t have written them. They all have their appeal but in different ways. Grinders might be the best story I ever wrote, but I can’t put any of them in a spotlight that excludes the others.
Do any of your characters haunt you to write more about them?
All the time, and this is a good question for me. I tend to recycle characters, and The Hat Series has benefitted from that. The second book in the series is my nod to superhero team-up adventures and features a cluster of characters I’d written before. I still use existing characters in the series. One minor player named Pete Rogers has an ongoing role in these stories with his Night Bump Radio program.
What are the most positive influences for you as an individual that impact your writing?
That comes from everywhere, too. My family is full of stories, and we’ve shared many a campfire telling tales about various cousins, great uncles, and others. I take quite a bit from personal observations. Film and books are other sources for me.
Then I have my inner circle. These are my critique group and the members of the Story Empire blog. We talk all the time and they’re all such fabulous writers some of it is bound to rub off.
You say you essentially grew up as a small-town lad. You have big ideas for living and getting the most from each day. Where does this come from in your background?
Probably from my father. It’s a borderline stress point to waste a day and not accomplish something. Other people are working and getting ahead of me. I have to force myself to step away and enjoy the moment. It appears I am a work in progress.
Are your fictional characters created based on people you know?
You’re not a process server are you? Kidding. Some of that bleeds into my work, but not normally. Only some quirks or mannerisms will show up. Most of my characters are amalgamations from various things I’ve observed, or need in the story.
Most authors I know are also readers. Do you have a favorite author and genre that you often read?
This is a hard question for me. Almost all of my reading today are books by friends. They’re fabulous authors, and if I start naming them I’ll leave someone out. That can lead to hurt feelings.
I’ll go back a few years and say I’ve read nearly every one of The Dresden Files, and many things by Michael Crichton.
As far as genres go, my grandmother used to have an off-color statement that applies. She said I was like a fart in a skillet. My reading and writing both fit in that description. I read and write paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction. Even those have sub-categories I’m likely to dive into. It’s one of the things that made series work difficult for me.
Do you have any other genres you want to explore writing in a short story or novel format?
I don’t close my mind to anything. I have two storyboards that require a romantic sub-plot, and I keep avoiding those. One will be coming up very soon. I’ve always thought I have one good Western in me somewhere, too.
Even then, as an established author, they all need to have something strange that makes them one of my stories. The few fans I have would expect nothing less.
Can you share additional details of your writing process and maybe tips other authors might consider? Things like beta readers, reviewers, challenges.
I’ve written so much about this in other places that it’s hard to condense here. Many of those posts are on the Story Empire Blog, and I hope your readers will check it out. It’s a group blog by nine of the best authors I know with tips for other writers.
I have a lot of ideas, and they aren’t all gems. When one lodges in my mind, I jot it down in my Notes app. It may stay there forever, or it may advance to a storyboard, which is how I plot my tales. Some boards never get finished or languish for a long time. I usually have between five and eight boards active at any given time.
I use a lot of feeds to generate ideas. These are apps that you can usually train to improve what stories they send. Once they focus a bit, they glean things I might be interested in without my having to search.
I also use Pinterest a lot. I have boards for all of my recent stories, series, and even a few genre-related boards. I find these to be quite helpful to visualize some things, and even for cover art. If someone were to check out my boards, they could include spoilers for future tales.
Your books are all ebooks. Have you considered print or audible formats to share your stories, and if not, why not?
I have considered all of those, plus graphic novels. I already spend a lot on artwork and other things. Right now, I think the expense of producing those formats outweighs any possible benefit from offering them.
Sean Harrington and I discussed graphic novels at length. Nobody likes to work for free, and if we don’t sell enough, we lose money even if they’re fabulous. The Hat Series would work well here and would shine with his talents, but it’s off the list for the reasons I mentioned.
What is your next story on the drawing board, and when can your fans plan to enjoy it?
This is never a simple question for me. I tend to write two at once these days as a way to stay productive during the middle slog. When one bogs down, the other one lets me keep my word count up. I’ve done this so much that I have two books nearly ready to go.
The final version of the Lanternfish Trilogy will come out late fall or early winter. That should be enough for 2021.
In early 2022 I will release Good Liniment. That’s the next volume of The Hat Series and involves expanding the witchcraft world in the series.
I’m currently working on a nameless space opera with no deadlines. I’ve tagged it as a side project while getting everything else ready to go. I have designs on making it into a trilogy, so I’ll do things a bit differently this time. I’ll hold volumes back so it doesn’t take years to release the whole thing.
This means I’m going to have to start something else after Lanternfish sets sail. It will probably be another volume of The Hat Series, tentatively called The Midnight Rambler.
How vital are reader’s reviews to your writing?
I think they’re super important. Obviously, anyone likes to see positive things about the work, but simple numbers are also important. Amazon tends to place things in prominent locations that are performing well. I also love BookBub. They seem to have a great system and notify my followers when I have a new release.
What sort of groups are you involved with and why?
I hold pretty tight to the Story Empire crowd. They’re all outstanding authors, and inspire me to do better. Any one of them is always willing to help if I have a question or need a space to promote my work.
I don’t think any of us are formal group kind of people. We don’t have decoder rings and dues. We all just function and support each other however we can.
You are invited to an author event in Boise with two of your favorite authors. (living or dead is fine for this response). You get to choose the panel topic for the three of you to discuss. Who are the panel members and what do you want to discuss with this open-ended event? Most importantly what do you want to learn from the exchange with these authors you admire?
Dang! I don’t even get a trip to Sedona or someplace? I suppose it’s easy enough to go back to a previous question and choose Chrichton and Jim Butcher. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of their stories.
I’d like to get into craft with them. Maybe how Chrichton does a deep dive into science, but not so deep we lose the tale in research. Butcher has some fun humor in his stories and also uses a lot of subplots. I’d like to beef up the skill of having more antagonists to worry about in my stories. There is a balancing act there I’d like to perfect.
I have no idea what I could offer to this group, but I’d buy them a beer.
Craig, of course, Sedona is always a prime location for metaphysical experiences and amazing red rock formations like Cathedral Rock. Rangers at Slide Rock State Park, ask you to come as a guest speaker to a group of 100 tourists from across the US staying for an enlightenment seminar. What would you focus your discussion on to open their minds to the possibilities?
I am probably not one to speak about those kind of things, but would encourage everyone to go someplace like Montezuma Well. I’m an author, so suggest taking a notebook and finding a quiet place. Just let your mind wander. Make notes about your feelings and thoughts. You might have different feelings depending upon a visit in the day or night.
These thoughts and feelings could very well find their way into one of your stories. You might even come up with a whole new tale while experiencing the area.
Do you have a favorite social media do you like to use to talk about authors and books?
I’ve been active on all of them, and find them lacking to a degree. I used to spend a lot of time on Twitter, but it’s kind of like drinking from the firehose. I still flip rapidly through Facebook, but it’s more likely a joke will catch my attention than anything else. If it qualifies as social media, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest.
My blog is where I’m the most readily available. I have it set to feed to all the sites, so I have things there. The goal is to lead people to my personal blog. I get a better quality of comments and interactions there.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming authors on what to avoid and what not to fear?
Just be yourself. Seek out writing blogs, craft books, seminars if they’re available to you. Listen to everyone, but make your own way. What works for one person never works for everyone. Be willing to modify your approach so it works for you. It’s there to improve how you go about writing, not shackle you to someone else’s rules.
Don’t be afraid to modify your approach if you discover something better.
Also, make friends along the way. I don’t know anyone who’s getting rich at this gig, but my life is better for the relationships I’ve forged along the way.
Find and Follow Craig. He loves to interact with his fans